Polyolefinic plastics — the most common plastic — have physical properties that make it difficult for a catalyst, responsible for inducing chemical transformation, to interact directly with the molecular elements to cause a change. Current recycling efforts require temperatures of at least 573 degrees Kelvin, and up to 1,173 degrees Kelvin. For comparison, water boils at 373.15 degrees Kelvin, and the surface of the Sun is 5,778 degrees Kelvin.
The researchers looked to heterogenous catalysts in an effort to find a reaction that might require a lower temperature to activate. By using a catalyst in a different state of matter than the plastics, they hypothesized that the reaction would be stronger at a lower temperature.
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